Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 14:28 UK

Music boosts prisoners' learning

The study found that music projects encouraged learning other skills

Music projects for prisoners help to improve learning skills, says research from the University of Cambridge.

Researchers examined the impact of schemes in which inmates took part in learning and creating music.

About a quarter of these prisoners were illiterate - and the study found that music projects increased their readiness to learn to read and write.

The research said there were "discernible impacts on participants' learning skills".

The study, called Beats and Bars, was an evaluation of the Irene Taylor Trust Music in Prisons project which, for 13 years, has been using music as a way of "raising life aspirations" among prison inmates.

Creative thinking

The project has run in 51 prisons and young offenders institutes and spends time with inmates in learning, rehearsing and performing music.

It aims to help prisoners develop a more positive and creative view of life and improve their chance of successful rehabilitation.

This study has been an attempt to analyse what benefits such schemes might bring individual prisoners and the provision of skills that might reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

Researchers Alexandra Cox and Loraine Gelsthorpe of the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, said that such music projects improve the "motivation to participate in additional learning and skills projects".

With many prisoners having low levels of educational achievement, collaborating in a creative arts project can be a push towards raising skills, they added.

This might mean improving "communication and listening skills, testing and expressing one's voice, and building the self-efficacy that may be necessary to try new skills, such as learning to read and write".

It also suggested that music could provide a means of communication and self-expression for male inmates whose lives have otherwise had been dominated by violence and low self-expectations.

The researchers surveyed prisoners about how their experience in music projects might influence attitudes to other types of learning - with 88% saying they would be more confident about other education projects.

Head of learning at HMP Manchester told researchers a number of prisoners had signed up for "the Writer in Residence group" as a result of the project and that this would help them to improve their literacy skills.

At HMP Wayland, researchers found that seven out of the nine participants in the music project have engaged in further courses.

Music in Prisons is presenting a music and photography exhibition, based on projects at Holloway and Wandsworth prisons, at the Royal Festival Hall from 16 October.

Behind bars
15 Dec 05 |  Magazine

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